A work in progress …? 4

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Ben, day 4.
Tough to get the digital image to look as clear and bright as the original piece, but here is Ben, (maybe) finished. I’m happy with him, but will the client share my enthusiasm? I suspect that the eyes may need more work, given that the colouring around them is hard to make out in the photo refs, where shadows have reduced the eyes to two patches of black; I’m expecting and hoping, however, that Ben’s owner will otherwise be content.
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A work in progress, 3

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Ben, day 3.

I’ve finished applying the palest layer of pastel. The body’s looking ugh at this stage, because I’ve had to brush off some overworked colour there, but I’ll go back in and simplify that area. I’m hoping to finish up in tomorrow’s session.

It has been a pleasantly right-brained few days; a welcome break from the wordiness of my usual freelance work. I’ll be happy to see Ben finished, but sad to see him go.

A work in progress, 2

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Day 2 of Ben!


I’ve roughly put in the background blues, laid in the darkest shadow areas of his coat and made a complete pass with a mid-tone, hard pastel.


Every painting has an ugly stage; some, like this one, are destined to go through several. Every time I put down a paler-value layer (especially with the softer brands of pastel) it appears to sit roughly on the surface of the paper, and I’m faced with having to integrate it into the picture by blending with fingers and with harder pastel sticks – without overworking.


We’re getting there, but I have so much more to do before Ben is complete. Much of the fur texture seen here will be sacrificed for the sake of making him pale-coated enough to convince and please the client who’s commissioned him.

Two portraits

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pastelworks, my online portfolio, has a new home.

The move to http://emmajanerosenberg.foliosnap.com/ reflects the fact that my art is now as much about oil pastels as it is the soft pastels which were once my only true passion. Why not pay the new site a visit and leave a note in my guestbook to let me know you stopped by?

Vi’s Eyes
10″ x 12″ Caran d’Ache oil pastels & wax pastels over gouache
on Art Spectrum Colourfix paper

I’m noticing that my approach to using OPs is evolving in a pretty similar way to the process I developed when painting with the softies, with an underdrawing and block-in using wax pastels (artist’s crayons) the equivalent of using harder pastel sticks in the early stages of a soft pastel painting. I also find myself turning to the wax pastels for a certain amount of blending. In the portrait below, I also used a Sennelier blending stick, as well as fingers and kitchen towel, and scraped away colour with whatever tools were to hand: these happened to be a screw of unknown origin and a plastic knife from my daughter’s tea set.

Portrait of M
9″ x 12″ Sennelier oil pastels & Caran d’Ache wax pastels
on Canson paper

Up to eleven

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Eleven years, the internet reliably informs me, marks our “steel” anniversary. Steel? Does the average couple experience a sudden, inexplicable need for a new stainless-steel cutlery set after eleven years of marriage? Or is it meant as a joke? “Steel married after all this time? Haw haw.”

Eleven years of marriage (or eleventy, as you put it – for which you’ll pay) means a lot; of course it does. But somehow, each year, I find myself smiling mildly indulgently at this anniversary of being your wife, knowing that it competes in vain with other dates inscribed on the calendar of my memory – 18 years of being your lover, 20 years of being your friend – and with the comparatively short, but completely overwhelming, two years that we have been parents to our astonishing little girl.

Graphite pencil on paper, 1993

Conté pencil on black paper, 2002

Conté sticks on La Carte sandpaper, 2004

I will miss you tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that … and then the day after that I will stop missing you, because you’ll have come back home, and we will get on with another eleventy years of marriage.

As Dolores Hfuhruhurr so aptly put it: “You – man of steel! I can’t wait … ’til next Thursday.”

I love you. xx

EDM #54: Not so much a sketch …

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… as a three-and-a-half-hour experiment. I had never attempted a portrait in oil pastels, and wanted to try one using a limited palette of four shades, similar to those which have worked well for me in several soft-pastel portraits.

I built up the image on warm-tinted Ingres paper in Neocolor II (wax pastels) and Neopastel (oil pastels), blending with fingers and kitchen towels. It’s about 8×5″. The highlights have scanned rather harshly, and I can see a couple of details I may be tempted to tweak; but I can’t help but be happy to see that little face on the page.

This is EDM Challenge #54: Draw someone you love.

My little girl.

Chanson d’automne

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Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l’automne
Blessent mon coeur
D’une langueur
Monotone.

~ Paul Verlaine

Since the summer completely passed me by art-wise, I’ve been determined to put something of the autumn into my sketchblog. This has been a good week, and for once I can’t honestly say I share Verlaine’s seasonal wistfulness, because so many paths and possibilities are opening themselves up to me that I feel excited to be alive. My autumn song is a cheerful one.

It’s been 16 months since I last picked up a soft pastel stick, and I am sorely out of practice, but it felt good to limber up again. I did this 50-minute sketch from one of my Cambridge photos: it’s Rembrandts on Wallis paper, about 9×6″, and was done sitting in the few square inches of free floor space remaining in what we laughingly refer to as the “Leisure Room”. I’m not thrilled with this sketch, but I’m thrilled with the doing of it. And for the moment, that’s what really matters.

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